The Resort Municipality of Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP) does not meet First Nation interests, says a letter submitted by Squamish and Lil'wat chiefs to council this week.
Both Squamish Chief Gibby Jacob and Lil'wat Chief Lucinda Phillips said that though they enjoy a "strong and co-operative" working relationship with the resort municipality, the OCP does not adequately address the First Nations' legal and cultural interests in relation to provincial Crown lands in Whistler.
"The Squamish and Lil'wat Nations have aboriginal rights and title throughout the RMOW boundaries and, in particular, we have a substantial legal and cultural interest in relation to the future of Provincial Crown lands within the RMOW boundaries," the chiefs said. "Those lands also represent potential economic interests important to our Nations' futures."
The chiefs went on to say that they respect the resort municipality's intent to control development through the OCP and through the Protected Area Network policy, but asked that those policies "respect the legitimate aspirations of our Nations as well as our aboriginal rights and title."
The chiefs also said that the Squamish and Lil'wat are owners of lands within the resort municipality's boundaries, lands that were acquired through accommodation agreements, and "can be expected to acquire more in future."
"As First Nations, the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations also have aboriginal title that precedes the jurisdiction of RMOW and commands careful consideration," they wrote. "The OCP must reflect the present and potential future First Nation lands, and must reconcile our Nations' cultural and development objectives with those of RMOW within our overlapping boundaries."
The chiefs are now requesting a "more robust" consultation process with the First Nations, asking that the OCP be redesigned to accommodate their concerns and allow for a "more meaningful" partnership between the municipality and the Nations.
Jacob, reached Tuesday, said he would call Pique back Wednesday but did not return a request for comment. Phillips, also reached Tuesday, said she would be available Wednesday but was not available when Pique called her office and her cell phone.
The letter was raised at the resort municipality's September 6 council meeting, where Doug Player, a developer working to locate a university on the Zen lands located across from the Spring Creek neighbourhood on Highway 99, asked lawmakers how they got so far down the road without consulting First Nations.
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler saidat the meeting that they had consulted with the nations.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed told Pique that the municipality has had at least two meetings with the First Nations to see if they had any concerns about the official community plan and neither had expressed any concerns at those meetings.
"Now that we've received this letter, we need to know a little more about what those concerns might be," he said.
"Our OCP doesn't have much in it about the disposition of Crown land. We haven't changed our intentions since the letter of understanding we signed with the Nations, that's why we have to understand the specifics around their concern."